Teaching respect

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STEVE Iredale, the outgoing president of the National Association of Head Teachers, makes a profound point when he says that his contemporaries are more experienced than Michael Gove, the current Secretary of State.

He is right. Like Mr Iredale, who hails from Barnsley, many headteachers have decades of experience to call upon. Mr Gove, meanwhile, was only appointed three years ago, with many of his policies driven by his childhood experiences in Aberdeen before becoming a contemporary of David Cameron at Oxford University.

Yet, while the teaching profession is clearly feeling bruised and exhausted by Mr Gove’s perpetual motion which has followed the last Labour government’s countless policy upheavals, the status quo could not persist. Too many pupils were being awarded inflated grades that were not commensurate with their actual ability.

From this point of view, the NAHT should welcome Mr Gove’s desire to restore rigour to the school syllabus. Like every headteacher, he is motivated by a desire to give children the best possible start in life and gain a good grasp of the subjects that will enable them to succeed in adulthood.

The problem is that the Government’s target-driven culture, backed up by tougher Ofsted inspections and threats to convert ‘failing’ schools into academies, means that a disproportionate amount of time is spent teaching to the test, predominantly at the expense of creativity in the classroom.

Both Mr Gove and the NAHT are right. Performance does need to be monitored, but teachers should also be able to demonstrate their flair for a particular subject. As such, a careful balance needs to be struck – and this will only happen if Mr Gove and the unions are more respectful of each other in future.